Scattered thoughts on the second season of Game of Thrones

So, when I watched the first season of Game of Thrones last year, it somehow wasn’t particularly compelling to me. Since I read the books, I already knew what was going to happen, and I wasn’t particularly interested in watching it played out onscreen. I finished the first season, but I didn’t rave about it. This year, I watched the first episode of the second season and then put the whole thing aside. I just didn’t feel any desire to watch the rest.

Yesterday, I finally watched the second episode, and I found myself intensely gripped. I rapidly watched the next two episodes. And I have no doubt that within a few days, I’ll have watched the rest of the season.

This makes me remember, “Oh, wait, this is exactly what happened with the books.”

Way back in the mists of prehistory, when I was a high school sophomore, I basically slogged my way through A Game Of Thrones. I enjoyed it enough to keep reading, clearly, but it was also just a little boring. The death of Eddard Stark at the end of the first book was just surprising enough to rescue the book from being a failure, in my eyes. So it was only with reluctance that I picked up the second book. However, from the moment I began reading the second book, I was captivated.

Since then, I’ve read the first book several times and considerably enjoyed each re-read, so I’m not quite sure what put me off the first time. Maybe it was all the children. The worst thing about A Song Of Ice And Fire are the children. Particularly Bran. My god, he’s dull. In five books, he’s done absolutely nothing. Arya has a more action-packed life, and it definitely caught my interest….but it definitely wasn’t ever what kept me reading. Only Sansa sometimes crosses my interest threshold (but then, isn’t she the most nearly adult of all of them?)

Anyways, the series of really good. Arya’s storyline is surprisingly interesting. Perhaps that’s because it’s just so horrifying. There’s really something about seeing it that is different from just reading about it. All of the little side characters she encounters along the way also have so much more life in the series than they ever did in the books: Gendry, Lommy, Hot Pie, and the Tickler all have some kind of solidity to them.

I think that’s true of the series in general. It’s definitely done wonders for even some of the more important minor characters. Tywin Lannister, for instance, was an imposing figure in the books, but in the series there’s also a hint of humanity to him.

And, of course, the best character resuscitation is that of Renly/Loras. Okay, I knew that they were lovers in the books. But really I only knew that because of a fan-made FAQ. It is really not at all obvious. And that’s for a simple reason: I don’t expect to the homosexual romance in a modern book to be subtextual.

For instance, it’s obvious (to me, at least) that Ishmael and Queequeeg were lovers in Moby Dick, even though it’s never directly acknowledged. They sleep in the same bed and spoon and Queequeeg calls Ishmael his wife and they hold hands while kneading a barrel of sperm. It’s totes obv.

I understand why Melville had to be so coy. I mean, that was the 1800s (although he was considerably less coy than Martin’s books). But it seems a little antiquated that Martin inserted this homosexual relationship into his books in such a veiled manner. It comes off as more of a box-ticking exercise than any real engagement with the world. Like, “Oh yeah, there should be gays. Oh, and we’ll put an island of black people somewhere too.”

Anyways, I am glad that the movie corrected this oversight. And they did it so deftly, too. Renly and Loras are, like, a real couple. I particularly like that their relationship is not just sexual (although in every case that we see them together, they’re about to start having sex), but that Loras is very involved (perhaps more involved than Renly) in this whole plan to turn Renly into a king. And I like how the show steers clear of shoving them into a feminine/masculine dichotomy. Both of them are a little foppish and a little foolish and, in their scenes, they trade off on the role of being the wiser head. There’s also no implication (in their scenes together) that whoever tops the other in bed is also the one who is more worthy of respect. Yay for not assigning normative value to sexual roles.

Oh, and the Daenerys plotline (which, in the books, is completely tepid) is also marginally more interesting to me in the show, although I have a sneaking suspicion that this might just be because the actor who plays Jorah Mormont is so handsome. I think I have the opposite problem with Jon Snow’s plotlines. Those were pretty interesting in the books, but there’s something about Jon Snow’s goofy looks that’s putting me off.

So….yeah…I’m just going to come out and say it….I’m thinking about adding this show to my list of movie/television adaptations that are better than the books.* Who’s with me on this?

*The other items on my list: The Prestige; Legally Blonde; The Devil Wears Prada; The Godfather; Minority Report; Total Recall.

4 Comments on “Scattered thoughts on the second season of Game of Thrones

  1. If that’s not a diverse list, then I don’t know what is.

    I’m trying to decide if getting HBO Canada is worth it for Game of Thrones. I saw the first episode, and very much enjoyed it. Peter Dinklage earned his Emmy from that alone.

    • Yep, although it probably reveals more about my reading and viewing habits than it does about the world =)

      The first season of Game of Thrones is already available as a box set. The second season should be out soon enough. So there’s always that option, if you decide not to shell out for HBO.

  2. Great write-up, Rahul. One character that I really enjoy seeing as opposed to reading? Stannis. In the books, he’s often described as doing nothing — staying silent, grinding his teeth, etc. — and it’s not very interesting to read about. On the show, he’s still taciturn, but we get to *watch* him not emote (in situations in which almost anyone else would), and it’s much more satisfying and dramatic.

    • I agree. Stannis had a bit of depth in the books, but he’s much more interesting in the show. I particularly enjoy all his interactions with Davos. I like his looks too, unlike all the other balding old white guys in the show (Davos, Roose Bolton, Tywin), he doesn’t wear his hair close-cropped. It’s an interesting vanity.

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